Daniel Biro – 120 Onetwenty– Album Review
If you take a look at his lengthy list of credentials, you’ll know that this isn’t Daniel Biro’s first rodeo. From film & TV credits, to the numerous collaborations he’s been a part of, to the twelve albums he’s put out into the world – Daniel is clearly a man of music and has spent a lifetime immersed in the art. He’s created some highly interesting ambient late-night tunes here on his latest record called 120 Onetwenty – I can at the very least speak on behalf of my fellow music-reviewers out there when I say that this album certainly makes for an incredible soundtrack to write to. Daniel Biro is clearly as addicted to sound every bit as much as I feel like I am myself – I wanted to put my head right into my speaker cones just to make sure I got every audible drop of the stunning selection of sounds he’s chosen throughout 120 Onetwenty.
Opening the album, the first song “Door” starts out ever so subtly before synth-sounds fill the atmosphere around the one-minute mark, bending and shifting space, time & tones around your ears before adding just a hint of keyboard melody into the mix. “Door” makes for a solid intro track, quickly revealing that you’re in for an overall experience in the art of sound as opposed to typical radio stuff. You can hear his knack for the ambient sound within the gentle movements he makes and the brilliant way these songs flow and transition between themselves along the journey through this record. As “Door” gears down and slides into the pulsing & captivating sounds of “Ancient,” the insatiably cool blend of haunting melody and mystery in the atmosphere begin to morph the album in a new direction. The expert hand that guides Biro’s movements is impeccable…the way this guy can drift sounds in & out of the mix and find that perfect spot & balance for each sound to thrive, exist, and complement the entire idea…it’s seriously top-shelf ambient – this guy gets it. “Ancient” pulls you right in close to listen through the sparkling clarity and stunning production that shines over every moment of this slow-moving, yet highly creative composition. With the added synth bass-lines jumping in towards the sixth minute…LISTEN to the killer way Daniel has shifted the sound to smoothly and how ready your ears are for the tasty treat they get over the final minutes of “Ancient.” It’s almost remarkable in the sense that it’s almost like an extended intro or two-tracks worth of ideas into one, but however he’s gone about it, it’s highly effective and extremely compelling to listen to, even with everything being so low-key.
“Nimbus” finds itself quite the groove for an ambient-electro tune…every time it came on I could feel myself bouncing around in my chair to the highly imaginative, somewhat playful beat & pulse of the music on this third tune from 120 Onetwenty. He’s working with like…the pitch-shifter on the keyboards I think; my Dad’s a keyboard player and that sounds so familiar to me…the way he used to take those dials to bend those notes to create an on-the-fly groove. Especially around the three-minute mark when the new layer sparks up, almost sounding like a theramin, which is one of the coolest things about being able to pitch shift a sound like this…it’s a rad approach. Not entirely sure that’s what’s happening on “Nimbus,” but it’s sure got similar textures and makes for an interesting listen that seems & sounds like it would be a difficult one to fully recreate due to the uniqueness in the performance. “Nimbus” has a tremendously strong electro backbone in the steadiness of the surrounding sounds in the atmosphere, allowing for Daniel to get wonderfully creative with what’s happening in the lead parts. There’s an enchanting amount of character in “Nimbus” that keeps the hypnotic flow continuously engaging and vibrant.
The charisma-level in the degree of accessibility continues to climb with “Itinerarium” giving the ears a bit more for the everyday music-listener more to latch onto. Smooth as ever, Daniel has an extraordinary talent for identifying sounds that complement each other and an insightful ability to understand how they’ll intersect through a progressive-ambient idea like this. “Itinerarium” reminds me of something like a combination of Pink Floyd-esque space-sounds with a Tortoise-like inclination for the main melody running through the background of the song. Any way that you want to define it, “Itinerarium” brings additional energy to the record & still continues 120 Onetwenty on in a highly logical way…from its understated beginning with “Door” to the more lively and involved ideas on “Itinerarium,” Daniel has shifted the sounds of his album in several directions already, but also ensured that the flow of the songs also makes an incredible amount of sense to our ears by how he’s chosen to lay out these ten tunes. You could certainly make an argument that the intensity of the vibe and energy of the music continues to rise on “Embark” as well, taking the mid-point of the record to the peaks of its most in-your-face moments on 120 Onetwenty. “Embark” is a serious highlight in my opinion; I’ve clearly been enjoying myself along the way already, but it’s tracks like this that are a bit bolder than typical ambient that leave a memorable impression. There are a few tones and sounds that only audiophiles out there like myself are going to appreciate…high-up frequencies and tones that your everyday Jack Johnson loving music-fan are sure to raise an eyebrow towards…but to me, sonic texture in ambient or electro music is crucial – and quite often, just like on “Embark,” can lead to entirely memorable moments & stand-out sounds.
The jazzy thread that runs through Daniel’s keyboards on “Levitator” are freakin’ fantastic. Overall, I’d put this cut right up there with my favorites on this record…I think the pronounced melody that he’s uncovered here really works and he’s once again found insightful ways to have his layers interact and build something truly worth listening to over & over. The evolution of sound on “Levitator” and how smoothly it develops while still providing immaculately expressive ideas along the way…the way that it crashes into the 3:40-ish mark and continues to get even more impressive to the end…the new layer of melody that gets added in just past the four-minute mark…the reliable groove that runs through the background the entire time…I mean c’mon people, “Levitator” is an audible smorgasbord of all-things-awesome. Inventive, imaginative…WILD…right around the 5:30 mark, Daniel takes us right out of the ambient world once & for all, into a synthetic blend of theatrical dynamics and brightly versatile sound. The structure of “Levitator” is more than impressive; where you end up considering where you began in listening to this tune and the gentle way it starts, it feels like you’ve progressed light-years by the time you get to experience the brilliantly bombastic finale.
How this whole album seems to just continually get better and more imaginative is quite breathtaking. “Barren” had me thinking I’d found my favorite song on 120 Onetwenty yet again, after already thinking I’d have found it several times over just to get to this point on the album. There are so many incredible things I love about “Barren” – it’s just absolutely stunning to listen to and I won’t hear an argument against it! It has like, the COOLEST…ahhh…I dunno how to describe them properly…like…under water sounds? Bubbles I suppose…perhaps laced with a trippy effect in the mix…who knows how this Merlin of music makes his magic? I loved the way that the electro-elements were so amazingly far off in the distance of this mix…kind of like you’re on the outside of an underwater space-station looking in through the glass and somehow able to just hear the faint machinery and electronics making noise on the inside. You know…something I’m sure we all can relate to; what a ridiculous sentence I’ve just written. You get the idea and the point overall though I’m sure – Daniel does an incredible job of taking you on a real trip through “Barren” that sinks in deep. You can feel this entire atmosphere surround you with hauntingly dreamy and mysteriously curious sounds that captivate the mind and challenge the imagination. You might not necessarily envision the underwater sea dome that I described…but I feel like I can almost guarantee you’ll see SOMETHING if you close your eyes and listen to this tune…like you can reach out and touch the sounds of this song because they seem so unbelievably clear, close, and vividly real.
How does Daniel choose to continue on the 120 Onetwenty experience from there? Why, with TWO back-to-back nine-minute & thirty-one second songs of course! Honestly!
- How does that even happen?
- Who even DOES that?
“Immortal” is the first of the two longest cuts of the album, dialing back the energy of the opening and allowing it several opportunities to expand and build from there. From the pulse in the background to the inventive keyboard melodies, to the low-end synth thunderously making its presence felt as the song develops, you can feel that understated intensity continuing to rise as “Immortal” slides past the four minute mark. For real – what Daniel is able to do and how flawlessly he does it, it nothing short of stunning at all times; for ambient/instrumental music, I haven’t felt bored once or like he’s overplayed his ambitions here – he sounds incredibly focused and I really feel like he’s created a record that has you on pins & needles for the tremendous depths it explores in its own subtle way. Like LISTEN to around the 5:30 mark of “Immortal” and how it begins to shift yet again, gently at first before making the new aspects of the melody and keyboard layers more pronounced, then adding in the massive singular beat far off in the distance to provide even more definition and punch to what we hear…this is expertly assembled, without question. I loved that “Immortal” felt like an involved experience that you can really get into…maybe Daniel’s onto something with this massive length for a track at 9:31 long…it felt like there was quite a gripping amount of tangible emotion you can feel move through this tune.
Not only do both “Immortal” and “Returning” feature multiple ideas inside of their 9:31 length, but in perhaps the most conjoined spot on the record, these two cuts flow seamlessly into each other with “Returning” picking up immediately where “Immortal leaves you off. Daniel – it’s time for you to be honest with the people sir…just admit it, you wrote an 18+ minute-long song; title it however you like man – we’re on to you. With arpeggio effects roaming around all over the place, “Returning” builds upon itself in a chamber of echoes in sound before adding a few more ingredients as the song takes shape over the second & third minute, before launching into an additional synth glow at the fourth. Sometimes this part worked for me, other times I wasn’t sure if it was ingredient too many…the brighter parts of the melody seemed to fit, the lower parts had me questioning the inclusion a little. But as you’ll hear around the 5:20-ish mark – when Daniel wants to make distinct change in the direction of his music, nothing will stop him. “Returning” seems to continually build itself up and almost sounds like it rarely subtracts anything in the process, eventually swelling to a massive wall-of-sound like effect. Not gonna lie, but the end, that’s gonna be a lot for most people out there…but again, if you’re a sound addict like myself and like Daniel clearly is as well, this second-half of his eighteen-minute long song should completely hit the mark for you. That’s right Daniel – I outed you sir…it’s an eighteen-plus minute-long song and I’m telling the whole world the truth & unplugging them out of the matrix.
If you thought “Door” opened the record in a subtle way – the final track, “Outside,” takes it all that much further. I mean – I LOVE this – truly. It’s like Daniel cracked open the door of his studio and recorded all the sounds that came flooding in flawlessly, adding in just the perfect dose of melody and music along with it to give it resoundingly interesting depth and dimension for such a sparse set of sounds. It’s like, if you’ve ever pulled yourself out of a darkened theatre and into the light of mid-day and you’ve had that surreal experience where you’re going from a fictional experience and right back into your routine…but like, you’re in the beautiful fuzz and fog of the adjustment between those two states of your being – that’s kind of what “Outside” feels like to listen to. In other words…more tangible & understandable ones – essentially Daniel concludes this record in the best of possible ways. Easing you out of his world of sound and the journey you’ve just taken, “Outside” is the sound of you adjusting your eyes to the light and allowing your mind to process the wonder and magic of what’s just taken place only moments before. It’s serene, it’s beautiful…it really is the perfect ending to this record.
What an exceptional adventure! Daniel Biro has got a highly imaginative mind and a tremendous ear for sound…at his maximum he gets completely wild, but even at his mildest & most gentle, still manages to always create something compelling to the ears and brilliantly captivating to the mind’s eye.
Find out more about Daniel Biro at his official homepage at: https://daniel-biro.com/
Find him at Facebook and give his page a like at: https://www.facebook.com/danielbiromusic/
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